Canada’s Writers Urge Parliament to Make Real Change on Copyright

The Writers' Union of Canada
Press Release

After well over a year of intensive study and testimony during the copyright review, Canada’s Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology (INDU) has released its report. While confirming what we know from the courts, the Copyright Board, and the Heritage committee — that there is a critical problem around educational copying and the interpretation of fair dealing — the INDU committee has inexplicably recommended no immediate solution to Canada’s educational copying crisis.

INDU has ignored the findings and recommendations of the Shifting Paradigms report from the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage (CHPC), and has failed to address the problem of educational copying in a meaningful way. CHPC’s Shifting Paradigms report was commissioned by the INDU committee specifically to help in the Statutory Review of the Copyright Act, yet they indicate not reading it before forming their own recommendations. In a brief mention, INDU notes Heritage’s effort and “looks forward to consulting their report.”

On the question of educational copying, the INDU report refuses to endorse any immediate solutions, and instead defers the matter to the courts. INDU’s one concession to the problem is to urge a government role in facilitated talks to “build consensus.”

“It’s a baffling and embarrassing report from Industry,” noted Anita Daher, Chair of The Writers’ Union of Canada (TWUC). “Why commission the Heritage study if they had no intention of considering its findings? Creative professionals have been waiting seven years for a meaningful fix to the copying crisis in Canada. This report does not provide one. We’re expected to watch our incomes simply disappear, with no action from government.”

TWUC urges Parliament to accept the earlier recommendations of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage. Specifically:

Heritage Recommendation #18. That the Government of Canada amend the Act to clarify that fair dealing should not apply to educational institutions when the work is commercially available.
Heritage Recommendation #19. That the Government of Canada promote a return to licensing through collective societies.
Heritage Recommendation #21. That the Government of Canada harmonize remedies for collective societies under the Copyright Act.

“We absolutely welcome the government’s help in bringing the education sector back to the table to discuss a return to licensing,” said TWUC Executive Director John Degen, “but pushing the problem back onto the courts is not a real solution and, frankly, not the job of government. We can’t afford to endlessly defend our rights in costly litigation that results from unclear law.”

“Canada’s writers put a lot of good faith, time, and effort into the copyright review,” added Daher. “The courts, the Copyright Board, and now two different Standing Committees acknowledge the problem. We expect Parliament to do its job, and clarify the Copyright Act to protect creative incomes.”

The Writers’ Union of Canada is our country’s national organization representing professional authors of books. Founded in 1973, the Union is dedicated to fostering writing in Canada and promoting the rights, freedoms, and economic well-being of all writers. 

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For additional information:
John Degen, Executive Director
The Writers’ Union of Canada
416.703.8982 ext. 221

DATE: June 5, 2019